President Trump challenged CNN reporter Jim Acosta defiantly on Friday when the journalist accused him of engaging in “happy talk” about the coronavirus crisis.
“This is not happy talk. Maybe it’s happy talk for you, it’s not happy talk for me,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re talking about death. We’re talking about the greatest economy in the world — one day I have to close it off.”
The exchange on Good Friday occurred during the president’s regular coronavirus task force briefing, when Mr. Acosta said many people view the televised events as “happy-talk briefings” in which the president and his advisers “paint a rosy picture of what is happening around the country.”
The president gave a forceful reply, reminding the reporter that “thousands of people have died.”
“There’s nothing happy about it, Jim. This is sad talk,” Mr. Trump said. “These are the saddest news conferences that I’ve ever had. I don’t like doing them, you know why? Because I’m talking about death. This is the real deal.”
Mr. Acosta said health-care officials in hot spots are still raising questions such as, “Do we have enough masks? No. Do we have enough tests? No. Do we have enough PPE [personal protective equipment]? No.”
Mr. Trump replied, “I think the answer is yes. Do we have enough tests — yes. Do we have enough ventilators — yes. Do we have enough hospital beds — yes.”
Mr. Acosta persisted, saying many doctors are complaining there are “not enough tests.”
“Depending on your air [broadcast], they always say that, because otherwise you’re not going to put them on,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ve been totally responsive. Everyone has the ventilators they need.”
The president said he is facing a momentous decision about when to reopen the economy after the crisis eases.
“Look at the airlines, they were having the best year, now all of a sudden we have to save them,” he said. “There’s no happy talk, Jim. And I’ve got to make the biggest decision of my life. And I’ve only started thinking about that. I’ve made a lot of big decisions in my life. This is by far the biggest decision of my life because I have to say, ‘OK, let’s go.’”